The Man on a Mission to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage in China

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04/13/2021

The wedding in the spring of 2016 was unlike any China had ever witnessed — two men stood shoulder to shoulder in matching purple tuxedos, professing love and promising to spend their lives together. In China, where same-sex marriage is illegal, photographs of the symbolic union between Sun Wenlin and his partner Hu Mingliang invited a chorus of both cheers and jeers — but that moment marked a daring declaration of love and a monumental leap for marriage equality. The image of two lovers holding hands, making vows, and kissing became a poignant and pivotal step in galvanizing the country’s same-sex marriage campaign. “We wanted a full-house wedding to let the public know that gay people also have the desire to get married,” Sun says on a recent February afternoon, reminiscing on the couple’s wedding — hosted a month after a court in central Hunan province denied them a marriage certificate on the grounds that such unions only exist between a man and a woman. The couple had filed a lawsuit into their local civil affairs bureau in provincial capital Changsha in 2015 for refusing to register their marriage, with the case becoming the first same-sex marriage lawsuit accepted by a Chinese court the following year.

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